Travel Tips, Tricks and Hacks

I love to travel, which has become one the best unintended consequences of my life as a writer, speaker and blogger. Travel always involves challenges. That’s why I have adopted an attitude that no matter how well I’ve planned, if something can go wrong, it probably will. And if it doesn’t? I consider that a travel bonus.

Over the years I’ve collected a bunch of really great travel tips—some fun, some crazy but all of them very useful if only to avoid a headache or two.

ROLL DON’T FOLD. Instead of folding your clothes, roll them tightly. They’ll take up less space in your luggage and that can save having to pay extra baggage fees.

SCAN EVERYTHING. Before you leave, scan the front and back of every item in your wallet including your passport. Email the images to yourself. Now you’ll always have a digital copy handy in case you lose something. This will not substitute for your passport, ID or credit cards, but you’ll have all of the pertinent information you need to keep going.

EMPTY BOTTLE. Bring along an empty water bottle. Once you clear security, fill it up and you won’t have to pay $5.95 for a bottle of water. Refill as necessary during your trip. Just make sure it’s empty before you pass through security on your return trip.

NOTHING LEFT BEHIND. Make this the first thing you do when you walk in your room: Take a hand towel from the bathroom and spread it out on the desk or other counter top in the room. This becomes the de facto place for all of your things that you have a place for at home. Put your room key on the towel, your car keys, sunglasses, chargers, wallet—everything. Now everything is visible and in one spot, rather than scattered about the room. As you come and go, return these items to their place on the towel. When you’re ready to check out, no searching, nothing left behind.

SECRET USB PORT. If you should happen to forget (or lose) the wall plug for your phone charger, check the back of the TV in your hotel room. Most these days have a USB port where you can recharge your phone or other device.

CHARGERS TO LEND. If you lost or forgot the charger for your computer or phone, go to the front desk. They will have a huge variety that others have left behind. You should be able to borrow the one you need.

HAND WASHABLES. Need to wash out underwear or other clothing items? Shampoo is the perfect substitute for hand wash detergent. It’s great for getting out a grease spot, too. After all, that’s what shampoo is made to do—remove grease from hair.

TRAVEL SAFE. A travel mug makes a great travel “safe.” If you must leave small valuables in your hotel room, pop them into the mug. It will be fairly inconspicuous and an unlikely target for thieves.

SIGN THE DOOR. When you leave your hotel room—even if for only a few minutes to get something to eat, place the Do Not Disturb sign on the door. Now it appears to housekeeping and others that you are in the room for as long as the sign remains. This adds a layer of security should you leave your computer or other valuables in the room for a short time.

ALWAYS COMPARE. When booking air travel, always use a flight or travel comparison website. There are several, such as Skyscanner and Kayak. These sites help you find the best airline and cheapest price for your dates and routes. But do not book your flights through these comparison sites. Instead, delete your browsing history and then book directly with the airline. This way if you have a flight cancellation or other problem, you can rebook right there at the airport (or train station, etc.) through customer service. If you’ve booked your ticket with an Internet travel site and you have a problem, good luck. You’re going to need it.


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  • Beck

    We always take a bag of snacks, granola bars, and instant coffee in case breakfast in the hotel doesn’t start until 6:30 am. We are early risers often up at 5 am. If we are driving rather than flying we also take a cooler with water, sodas, fruit and veggies to munch on. If we are going to be in a particular spot for a long time we make sure there is a laundry available in the hotel for guests to use.

  • Pigoff

    I am so lucky. I travel all the time but I never have to stay in hotels. Being raised in the military I have friends all over the world and I get to stay with them and we get to play catch up. Every year I go to Germany (my aunt pays for the trip from a family trust fund) to see my family. I drive to Oklahoma, Missouri, Louisanna, Iowa, and Kentucky for short jaunts. I go with my girlfriend to Arizona to see her brother every year. She doesn’t want to go alone so she pays my way to go with her. I love travelling but then again I should as it is in my blood as an army brat.

  • Pigoff

    I always stock up on snacks too so we don’t have to stop and eat. I also carry coupons so when we do stop I use them at the fast food places like subway or other restaurants.

  • Maria Stahl

    Thanks for the USB-in-the-television and chargers to lend suggestions!
    Smart. 🙂

  • Cat Nap

    Great tips. I like the belongings on a towel idea. I need all the help I can get remembering things. The thing that gets me is hanging things up in the bathroom and forgetting to go all the way into the bathroom to double check for them. Sometimes I like to travel with a nightlight, to find my way to bathroom in the middle of the night. Easy to forget it, though. I rely on a big note I leave in my suitcase, or a self-sealing bag that’s labeled “nightlight” to remind myself to grab it. The scan and email your wallet contents sounds useful in a pinch, but I worry about sending that valuable info out into the internet. Email is hackable.